Alu posto is a rare Bengali vegetarian classic. It’s popularity cuts across folks from different communities. But then potatoes are addictive. As are poppy seeds! And no animals are harmed are in its making. So alu posto’s universal popularity is no surprise. And, of course, there is the little detail of it being a very light and delicately flavoured dish.
Intrigued by the ‘Seventies Show’ tag? Well alu posto means potatoes (alu) cooked in poppy seeds (posto). The Flower Child of the food world.
I had not posted this recipe as most Bengali food blogs have it. We served it to Australian food blogger, Spice and More , and her lovely family when they visited us on Sunday night. Mama and Papa loved it and wondered why I hadn’t put up the recipe so far. (The kids were jet lagged and sleeping inside).
Taking up from the earlier poppy discussion, Spice and More told us about how she was once stopped at Singapore airport when she was taking khous khous in for cooking. Now who would explain the magic of Lebanese cooking to the sniffer dogs and their vigilant masters?
I used to count days for my trips back home when I moved into Mumbai. My mom’s alu posto would call out to me.
Survival warranted that I learn to make it myself. It is quite a simple recipe actually which I have learnt through trial and error. I have trained my cook, Banu, to make it. She made yesterday’s version and I must proudly say that she did a very good job of it.
So here’s how you can make a heady alu posto for four:
- 2 dry red chillies
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tea spoon: kalo jeera/ kalonji/ onion seeds/ nigella seeds (different names for the little, black seeds)
- 1/2 a red onion, shallot … finely chopped
- 6 potatoes: cubed and parboiled. Parboiling ensures that you don’t have to use too much oil
- 50 g Posto/ poppy seeds, khus khus in Hindi, Khous Khous in Lebanese: ground into a powder and then made into a thick paste by adding a bit of water
- Spices: 1 tea spoon each of turmeric and cumin powder. 1/2 tea spoon each of red chilly powder and sugar. 1 tea spoon, or more, of salt
- 3 green chillies spilt into half
- 1 table spoon cooking oil. While any oil will do, the traditional Bengali oil of choice is mustard oil. I can’t stand it!
- Heat oil in a pan
- Add dry red chillies once the oil is hot
- Let it splutter, add bay leaves
- Let it crackle, add the black onion seeds
- Add onion and stir till they turn translucent
- Add potatoes (which should already be soft)
- Add poppy paste
- Add spices and a tea spoon of salt
- Throw in the green chillies
- Stir. Should be done in 5 minutes. Add a bit of water of the potatoes are hard
I like to dry the dish at the end and prefer the potatoes to have a slight edge or crunch. Ideally the potatoes should look braised. There are other versions which are slightly more soupy or squishy. I don’t like them
This is best enjoyed with steamed rice. You can also have them with rotis or plain parathas. There is nothing to stop you from having them with bread or by itself either.
It is addictive. You have been warned.